Europe – Part 6

Countdown: Top 5 Places & Why 

#4: Rome, Italy

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Coliseum exterior

“All roads lead to Rome.” – Chaucer, 1391

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Coliseum interior



City highlights:

  • Coliseum
    – A very cool experience being able to see the historic structure from Gladiator
    – Had a fun time exploring the inside of the amphitheatre & got to see part of the stage and sections underneath
  • Roman Forum
    – Large ancient ruins of architectural remains of what once was the center of public life in Rome
    – Got to walk on the roads where these greats walked: Julius Caesar, Maximus Decimus Meridius & Marcus Aeralius
    – Had an awesome tour guide; she was passionate and extremely knowledgeable about this type of history, and with a Master’s in Classical History she brought Rome to life!
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  • Trevi Fountain
    – People from all over the world come to see this famous landmark
    – Is one of the most famous fountains in the world & an estimated 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain each day
    – The big idea: Make a wish and throw a coin in your right hand over your left shoulder into the water & one day it may come true
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  • The Vatican
    – Sistine Chapel: a huge room, full of extraordinary painting’s, which houses some of Michaelangelo’s most famous works, not to mention the ceiling masterpiece he painted (which took over 4 years to complete)
    – St. Peter’s Basilica: got to walk through this Late Renaissance church & has a very large square outside surrounded by numerous columns (colonnades)
    – Vatican Museum: contains sculptures and other famous art works from the Renaissance era
  • Spanish Steps
    – A cool looking design and is apparently the widest staircase in Europe

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Outside Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel

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St. Peter’s Square with St. Peter’s Basilica & Sistine Chapel in background

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Overlooking St. Peter’s Square from St. Peter’s Basilica



Other quotes on Rome:

“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; And when Rome falls – the World.” – Lord Byron

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” – Proverb

“Every one soon or late comes round by Rome.” – Robert Browning

“Rome was not built in a day.” – Jean de La Fontaine

“I came, I saw, I conquered. [Latin: Veni, vidi, vici.]” – Julius Caesar

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.” – Maximus, Gladiator

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.” – Emperor Augustus Caesar

“Her smile, I’m sure, burnt Rome to the ground.” – Mark Z. Danielewski

“In Rome it seems as if there were so many things which are more wanted in the world than pictures.” – George Eliot

“Civis Romanus sum.” (I am a Roman citizen) – Cicero

“It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”
– Marcus Aurelius

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Europe – Part 5

Countdown: Top 5 Places & Why

#5: Paris, France

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Eiffel Tower

“Paris is always a good idea.” – Audrey Hepburn

City highlights:

  • Eiffel Tower
    – Is an enormous, bronze statue
    – Took elevator up to first deck & took stairs the rest of the way to the top
    – There are 3 platforms
    – The 2nd observatory deck offers the best view of the city
    – It is, of course, definitely a tourist haven but is a must-see when visiting this iconic city
  • The Louvre
    – One ginormous museum with 3 separate wings
    – It would take 1 full year to go through and read/see everything the museum has to offer
    – Has a really cool entrance: a glass pyramid
    – Got to see the Mona Lisa and other famous art pieces while exploring the museum with a family friend I met up with while there

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The Louvre

  • Arc de Triomphe
    – An insane 8 lane traffic circle
    – It really is a  crazy intersection; an accident happens there every 15 min’s (our tour bus driver actually sped up into the traffic circle!! And we didn’t get smoked)
    – You have to go underground in order to get to the top and once through there are some really sweet views to be seen of this magnificent city
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
    – Didn’t get to go…guess I’ll just have to come back another time
    – We only had one day to explore 4 of Paris’ top sites and we batted 0.750IMG_1378

View of city from the Eiffel Towel

Other Paris quotes:

“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.”
– Thomas Jefferson

To know Paris is to know a great deal.
– Henry Miller

London is a riddle. Paris is an explanation.
– G. K. Chesterson

There is but one Paris and however hard living may be here, and if it became worse and harder even – the French air clears up the brain and does good – a world of good.
– Vincent Willem van Gogh

The chief danger about Paris is that it is such a strong stimulant.
– T.S. Eliot

Europe – Part 4

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At the top of Mt. Pilatus; Lucerne, Switzerland

“People don’t take trips . . . trips take people.”
John Steinbeck

A Collection of My Learning’s:

  • People are people, wherever you go
    – Each person has the same needs as I do (need for acceptance, belonging, to be apart of something bigger than themselves, need to be heard and understood)
    – Everyone feels the same emotions as I do (happy, sad, frustrated, excited, stressed, curious, & the list goes on)
  • It’s fun meeting different people from other countries, ethnicities and cultures
    – This experience has opened my mind to see how very different people are (how they think, the decisions they make, their personalities, values etc) and there really is no one exactly like me anywhere in the world
    – Each of the 19 countries I visited had something different to offer; a distiguishing feature that separated one country from another & would leave a lasting impression on my memory
  • It was so fun always being on the move and seeing new sights and new places every day
    – I thought this fast pace would overwhelm me, but I came to realize how much I enjoyed this as I got to see and do a million things a day for 42 straight days (Sound intense? That’s because it is!)

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Bike riding in Amsterdam, Holland

  • I needed downtime in order to go at this pace for an extended period of time (I craved “introvert time” – time to be alone by myself –  to re-gain my energy in order to do it all over again the next day). I would do this by:
    – Not always going out each night but having intentional “down time”
    – Going to bed early on some nights
    – Sleeping on the bus during travel days
  • Taking lots of pictures
    – I took over 7,000 pictures on my point-&-shoot digital camera & have gone thru them all 3 times since returning home
    – I have condensed them into smaller, more manageable amounts for my own and other people’s realistic viewing pleasures
  • I became a sponge and took everything in
    – Via tour guides
    – Watching other people/tourists and how they travel, sightsee & do things
    – Asked lots of question’s (not to be annoying but because I am curious)
  • Kept a travel journal and wrote in it each day to record what I did/saw (see my last post, Europe – Part 3, for more on this)
    – Did this so I would always have a written account of what I did for each day to be able to recall and re-live this experience anytime I want to

“Take only memories, leave only footprints.” – Chief Seattle

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Guess where this is!

Europe – Part 3

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Ephesus library; Ephesus, Turkey

“Just go.” – Anonymous

Okay, so you’ve decided you want to travel and see the world. Whether this is just a dream (for now), or a commitment you’ve made, here are some practical tips and fun suggestions that helped me when I was preparing for my big trip.

Questions to ask yourself (part of the planning and prep stage):

  1. Who will I go with? (solo or with a friend/group of friends)
  2. What will I be doing? (get your itinerary ready ahead of time)
  3. Where will I travel to? (name the countries you will visit)
  4. When will I go on this awesome trip? (warmest months to go, high/low season)
  5. Why do I want to travel? (what’s my purpose)
  6. How am I travelling? (tour group, backpacking etc)

“The man who goes alone can start today; but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready.” – Henry David Thoreau

Essentials for the trip:

– Passport (check to make sure yours isn’t up for renewal, as passports expire every 5 years, and that it will be valid for the entire length of your trip – I had to get mine renewed)
– Visa’s (bring these if needed)
– Immunization shots (there’s a great clinic I went to over in the Market Mall Professional building, called Odyssey Travel & Tropical Medicine Clinic; it was a great deal and got me all the necessary shots I needed & the people there were great)
– Healthcare coverage (I got mine through AMA and the travel agency I went through)
– Go to your bank and convert your money to the currency you’ll be travelling so you will have money when you land in that country (I would recommend going to your bank 2-3 weeks ahead of your departure date to get all the bills and coins you need)

As a heads up, the best time to travel Europe, according to European expert, Rick Steves, is May, June, and September as the weather is still warm but not scorching hot and humid.

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St. Mark’s Square; Venice, Italy

“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”
– Benjamin Franklin

Must-Bring items I brought on my trip (and would recommend to you):

  1. iPod (loaded with your favourite music)
  2. 1-2 books to read and stay entertained / somewhat educated
  3. Travel journal & pen(s) – Tip: Jot down in list-form the main events you did and places you saw FOR EACH DAY of your travels.
    Reason: So you can remember what you did & saw many years from now.
    Take this seriously and be disciplined.
    How I did it: On the tour bus during travel days I would update my travel journal while “on the road”. I would do anywhere from 2-3 days at a time. You will forget if don’t capture this with good ‘ole fashion pen and paper, as you are seeing SO MUCH all at once, all the time!
  4. Money belt (To avoid pick-pocketing. You would be surprised how common this is in Europe. I wore mine and this never happened to me.)
  5. Backpack to put essential items in: iPod, camera, food, drinks etc  (I left mine on the bus to avoid having to carry a honking bag around all the time)

Other tips: (free of charge, you’re welcome)

– Go to a travel agency to help with the details of your trip planning (airline booking, events and excursions booking, extra brochures/info pamphlets for your destination…including pictures to INSPIRE you!!) I went to Marlin Travels and they were excellent! I received awesome service & very helpful tips.
– Check your bank account…can you actually afford this? Do you have the money for this? (If not, you may need to come up with some “creative financing” to get you there!!)

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
– St. Augustine

IMG_3967Acropolis (meaning, “high point of city”); Athens, Greece

Europe – Part 2

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City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia

 

“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”
– Pat Conroy

 

For this trip I went by myself to have a solo adventure. I met up with other people on my tour group, as well as other crazily-psyched travellers along the way at each of the destination stops. I went with the tour group, Contiki. Known for its party culture (as I apparently found out), the partying scene wasn’t what I was going for; rather, it was to see the world in general, and as much of Western Europe in particular.

 

Here is a map of where I went:

contiki

 

 

These are some of the thoughts and words that describe my trip to Europe:

Before:

  • Adventurous
  • Exciting
  • Exhilarating
  • Taking a risk
  • Planning + research & planning + research
  • Time to put “real life” on hold
  • WHERE AM I GOING TO COME UP WITH ALL THE MONEY?!?
  • Who do I go with??
  • Time to pack &: Consolidate, consolidate, consolidate!

During:

  • Time of my life
  • Unreal opportunity
  • Sleep? Who needs sleep…I’ve got places to see!!
  • Breaking my comfort zone & ingrained personality style
  • My index finger seems to be in a fixed, permanent position from constantly taking pictures
  • So much to see and take in
  • There isn’t enough time to fit everything in!
  • Thought process: “Go, go, reflect, go, go!” (repeat)

After:

  • I don’t want to come back!
  • Is there ANY way to extend this trip??!
  • Definitely the trip of a lifetime
  • Opportunity to share with my kids about this trip (as my Dad had done with me when he travelled Europe)
  • So many memories that will last a lifetime
  • TONS of pictures to look through
  • Wow! I just saw 19 countries in Europe in 5 weeks
  • When can I go back?

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The Louvre – Paris, France

 

 

Upon the return to my native land, Canada, I noticed I had caught a serious bug from all my travelling. No matter how fervently and desperately I tried to cure it it just never went away. This “bug” as I have heard it coined, is more prominently known as the “Travel Bug”, and more people than I know have been infected with this. The more folks I talk to who have done their share of travelling have confirmed the undeniable fact: IT WILL NEVER GO AWAY!!!

The question is: Will you allow yourself to catch this adventurous & contagious “bug”?

Europe – Part 1

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Santorini, Greek Isle

“Not all those who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien

 

I had the great and awesome opportunity to travel Europe last summer and wanted to share my experiences. These next few blog posts of my trip will be part of a series. This is Part 1 & I hope you enjoy it.

This trip to Europe was, without a doubt, the trip of a lifetime!

I’ll start with some of the events that led up to my travels:

I had spent (served) six years in post-secondary education (4-year Business degree at Trinity Western University & 2-year IT diploma at SAIT) + fourteen years (pre-school – Grade 12) for a combined total of 20 years in school & I needed to get off the continent of North America & explore the world!

Graduating last spring, April 2012 from SAIT, travelling had always been a dream of mine & something I had always wanted to do.

I had wanted to travel after I completed my 1st degree, but never made it a priority to see it happen, mostly due to costs. This was a big motivation in seeing my travel adventures come to fruition after my 2nd educational completion.

I decided now was the best time to go: I was FINALLY finished school, had not started working in “the real world”, I was single, and without a ton of responsibilities I thought it was now or never! (Besides, when else will you ever get 6 consecutive weeks off in a row at work, with your boss graciously holding your job for when you return?!?) I rest my case.

 

By The Numbers – Trip Overview:

  • # Memories to last a lifetime: Infinite
  • # Pix’s taken: 7,000+
  • # Countries visited: 19
  • # Weeks in total: 6
  • # Weeks in Europe: 5
  • # Weeks in London: 1
  • # Continents explored: 1
  • # People I went with: 1
  • # Regrets: 0

26 Reasons To Do a Triathlon

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“The starting point of all achievement is desire.”
– Napoleon Hill

Would you ever do a triathlon?

It’s a simple question, yet most people would not compete in a triathlon because they are scared of the swim portion. And by scared, I mean terrified. They say they don’t know how to swim or couldn’t possibly swim the length that is required.

The swim is generally regarded as the hardest part of the tri for most people. And it’s easy to see why: Swimming is the most technique-oriented sport of the trio & most people aren’t naturally great swimmers. So rest assured, you are not alone.

These objections were what I initially thought, until I decided to do something about it. I resolved I would not let this fear keep me from competing in a triathlon. What did I do? I got a pass to the U of C pool and swam LOTS (the majority of my tri training consisted of swimming), got a swim coach, looked at swimming videos on YouTube and analyzed the best swimmers in the world (I.e. Michael Phelps & other elite Olympian’s) to see how the swim is supposed to look and tried to emulate their form each time I was in the water. To answer these swim objections for a tri race, there are 2 options: In the pool or open-water. I would advise starting off in a pool for your first triathlon and if you enjoyed it, then do an open-water swim for your second tri. That’s what I did & it worked out great.

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“The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
– Plato

With this is mind, and as per the title, here’s the list:

26 Reasons To Do a Triathlon:
 

  1. It’s summertime and winter will soon be here
  2. Opportunity to try a new sport
  3. Have fun and feel great about yourself
  4. Do something you’ve probably never done before
  5. Take advantage of playing a sport outdoors, in Mother Nature’s wonderland  
  6. Challenge yourself and be stretched in new ways
  7. Expand your outlook on life & sports
  8. Learn more about yourself and what you’re made of
  9. Know what you believe about yourself
  10. Meet lots of new people who, like you, are athletes and enjoy sports
  11. By learning a new sport you create new neural pathways in your brain to help you think better
  12. Conquer 3 sports all at once (kill 3 birds with 1 stone)
  13. Excellent workout and great for your health, sleep and well-being
  14. Releases stress and allows you to think better and more clearly
  15. Is a legal alternative for dealing with stress and frustration in your life
  16. The cross-training is excellent as you get to work & develop different muscle groups
  17. Accomplishment of a personal goal
  18. Personal satisfaction in seeing your success from beginning to the end, during the high’s and low’s
  19. Be a part of the journey (the goal) en route to the destination (not the goal)
  20. Life lessons you learn: Time prioritization, goal setting, money management, personal accountability 
  21. What you also learn: Character, integrity, dedication, suffering, struggling, discipline, follow-through & commitment
  22. Crossing the finish line on race day is the reward and the memories will last for the rest of your life
  23. Opportunity to share your story with others
  24. To be inspired and inspire others
  25. Now is the time to get fit and be more active
  26. Why not?